A Clockwork Orange, Park Theatre, review: ‘Questions of choice and volition are (literally) danced over’

A Clockwork Orange at the Park Theatre. Picture: Matt Martin

A Clockwork Orange at the Park Theatre. Picture: Matt Martin - Credit: Archant

With an energetic cast and brilliant choreography, this production is a well crafted piece of theatre, but it falls short of asking the right questions

Anthony Burgess’ A Clockwork Orange is a crucial part of 20th century’s canon of dystopian visions of a warped world.

Like Nineteen Eighty-Four, Fahrenheit 451, The Machine Stops, Brave New World and others, it deals in great political and philosophical questions that, as director Alexandra Spencer-Jones writes “will always be relevant to the time in which we watch, read or perform it.”

It is 45 years since Kubrick’s film version of the 1962 novel, so it is good that a new generation has the opportunity to view the work.

Action to the World’s production is amazing theatre.

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High octane and electrifying, it follows the sickening antics of Alex and his Droogs as they punch, assault, rape and terrorise their way through the world in a fest of ultra violence.

They are captured, imprisoned and Alex is subjected to the government sanctioned Ludovico Technique – a sort of aversion therapy that amounts to emotional castration.

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The world created at the Park Theatre is almost exclusively populated by men wearing white vests and men wearing black vests who shun no opportunity to take them off to reveal exquisitely sculpted torsos.

The cast is energetic and the choreography brilliant: fights and assaults, even an anal rape with a broken bottle, becomes both horrific and graceful.

But what of the polemic: the questions of the rights of the individual and the limits to how society should protect its citizens? Sadly, these are all scooted over in seconds. Where the piece lingers over an assault (yes, we get it, there’s lots of violence) the questions of choice and volition are (literally) danced over.

And where is Burgess’ wonderful, invented language Nadsat? In the book and the film, Alex narrates in this concoction of cockney rhyming slang and Russian: it is beautiful and central to the theme of alienation.

Here it is, at best, a mumbled adjunct to allow the cast a breather before the next disco/House themed fight – ballet pumps not bovver boots. We deserve an appypolly loggy.

The pace was too fast to allow ideas to develop. As a brilliantly crafted piece of theatre the work was compelling; as a vehicle for examining ideas and our humanity, it was trite and superficial.

Rating 3/5 stars

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